Olympic Questions: Further responses to LeanerFasterStronger / 2 June 2012
We are approaching the end of the run of LeanerFasterStronger at Sheffield Crucible, and have had a fantastic response to the work in the regional press, on twitter, and via the Guardian and Sheffield theatres’ website. This is the start of a period of reflection for me – what lessons might be learnt? How much of my initial ambitions and intentions have I achieved?
When I was approached by Chol Theatre with this commission, I had no interest in sport outside watching Wales vs Ireland in international rugby matches, and no experience of participating other than representing Birmingham in the high jump as an over-excitable twelve year old. I’m a collaborator, not a competitor, so I wanted to understand this drive to succeed – highlighted by the strap line: ‘How far would you go to be the best?’ This was particularly important in relationship to commerce, sponsorship, and big business – the commercialisation of sport and the commodification of our athletes.
Apart from individual athlete characters and their pressures and challenges, I wanted to explore the bioethical issues around human enhancement, sports science, bio- and genetic engineering.
The internet has broadened the field of interaction, commentary and criticism, encouraging dialogue and discussion. Having access to members of the audience’s thoughts and reactions via chats in the bar after the show, to their online comments, can be tremendously useful to a dramatist. It allows a panoply of responses, from the professional critic to the amateur enthusiast, from fellow playwrights and theatre makers to the novice or occasional theatre-goer, perspectives from all walks of life, including sports engineers and elite athletes, the subject and focus of much of the script.
The timing of the production has been pertinent – many have commented on how some of the issues in the production will throw a long shadow across the upcoming Games:
‘…it’s a show bound up with the impending Olympics and the coverage surrounding that,’
The poet Andrew McMillan says on the Sheffield Theatres website:
‘…we’re all invited to be part of the Olympics through all mediums, radio, film, tv, even adverts now, the immersive nature of the piece, casting the audience as delegates watching conversations unfold, to me just simply continued this invitatiom to the Olympics, but examined sides to sport which might not readily be discussed. We debated some of the issues on the train ride home, and that is all an piece of theatre can really hope to achieve…’
‘As the Olympic torch moves around the country, I’ll be thinking and talking about LeanerFasterStronger’